What is Italian Majolica Pottery?

italian majolica ceramics process

Majolica ("muh-JOL-i-kuh") is glazed pottery often associated with certain regions of Italy, although it is also produced in other parts of the world.  The name majolica was derived from Majorca, the Spanish port from which majolica was originally traded. Italian majolica and Italian ceramics are world renowned because of their master craftsmanship and durability.

Italy has a long-standing tradition in the production of ceramics and pottery dating back to the 13th century. During the Renaissance, Deruta, a small town in Umbria, made use of the special clay from the Umbrian hills to establish itself as the center for the production of majolica and Italian pottery. The superior majolica produced at this time gained respect as an art form, even though many pieces were intended for everyday use. The majolica tradition continues in Deruta today, as well as in other parts of Italy.

From start to finish, all of Bellezza's Italian ceramics are made by hand.  Our artists extensively research forms, motifs, and techniques from the Renaissance and find inspiration in old designs to create new patterns and silhouettes. The technique used in producing Italian ceramics, however, has been passed down from generation to generation and can be summarized in four steps:

  • To begin, the artist cleans the clay to eliminate impurities. The clay is then shaped by skilled hand into various forms, usually on the potters' wheel. Handcrafted molds are also used for some pieces – such as dinner plates and mugs – which require more uniformity. The forms are then dried and fired for the first time.
  • The cooled form is dipped in a mineral oxide bath, creating a white opaque background on which the designs may be precisely painted, without the risk of the glazes bleeding into one another. The mineral oxide base distinguishes majolica from other ceramics and creates the intensity of color for which Italian majolica is known.
  • The glazes are mixed according to old recipes and the form is then painted by hand, often by free hand and always meticulously, for mistakes cannot be corrected.
  • The painted form is fired for a second time, this time for up to 24 hours. This second firing gives the piece the luster that authenticates genuine majolica.

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